Saskatchewan renters, landlords seek clarity from province during COVID-19 state of emergency

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WATCH: No promises have been made for renters – Mar 23, 2020

All levels of government have announced financial measures to ensure residents aren’t forced to dip too deep into savings to get through the novel coronavirus pandemic.

While homeowners have been promised the ability to defer mortgage payments, no promises have been made for renters.

A number of tenant-advocacy groups across the country have called for a moratorium on evictions.

That includes the Renters of Saskatoon and Area (ROSA) who sent a letter to the Ministry of Justice last week.

The letter asked the ministry to pause evictions during the provincial state of emergency.

READ MORE: Rent freezes, eviction deferrals needed amid coronavirus fallout: experts

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The province said the matter is being considered and it will determine what further action might be required.

The Office of Residential Tenancies (ORT) said hearing officers are taking the COVID-19 state of emergency into consideration for all disputes.

In an email, the ORT said it will include the impacts on renters, including loss of employment or whether a tenant has applied for government aid.

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The ORT said this change gives officers the flexibility to make rulings on a case-by-case basis.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C. housing minister says ‘help is on the way’ for renters, homeless

The Saskatchewan Landlord Association said it would rather see the province set up a rental bank, saying it would allow the government to cover either all or a portion of rental payments for tenants.

“It helps landlords continue to provide housing, it keeps tenants safe in their homes because rent is paid. It doesn’t require a moratorium on evictions because we know that the rent is paid,” said executive officer Cameron Choquette.

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He added that the format of the bank would be determined by the province whether each tenant-landlord relationship would receive full payment or if the province will offer an average sum for all renters.

Choquette thinks this is a better option and the province could make the benefit interest-free and give renters a time period to return the investment.

He said this option gives landlords the ability to evict tenants who are displaying unsafe or criminal behaviour in order to keep the rest of the building or community safe.

The association said it started discussions with the province about the creation of rental bank over the weekend.

Choquette added the best option is for landlords and tenants to have an open dialogue to find a solution that works best for both parties.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.